Book - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Baker & Taylor
Witnessing Germany's November 14, 1940 attack on Coventry from her watch position at the cathedral, widow Harriet bonds with a young man during the ensuing chaos who reminds her of her late husband, while at home, the young man's single mother waits in agony for her son's return and remembers the circumstances that brought her to the city. 15,000 first printing.

Norton Pub
On the night of the Luftwaffe's devastating bombing of Coventry, two women traverse the city and transform their hearts.

Blackwell North Amer
Helen Humphreys draws on history to delve into the lives torn asunder by the German attack of November 14, 1940. Harriet, a widow from World War I, is atop Coventry Cathedral, part of the nightly watch, when first the factories and then the church itself are set on fire. In the ensuing chaos she bonds with a young man, very much like the husband she lost, who relies on her to find the way back to his home where he left his mother. On their journey through a hell of burning shops and collapsed homes, Harriet awakens to emotions she had long put aside. At home, the youth's mother awaits his arrival and rethinks the life that has brought her to this city and her life raising her son alone. Ultimately, together these two women must face a world as immeasurably changed as their own selves.

& Taylor

Witnessing Germany's November 14, 1940 attack on Coventry, widow Harriet bonds with a young man who reminds her of her late husband during the ensuing chaos, while at home, the young man's single mother waits in agony for her son's return.

Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Co., 2009, c2008
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780393067200
Branch Call Number: F
Characteristics: 179 p. ; 21 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

martins_mom Feb 26, 2016

I think Humphreys has grown into herself. This is one of her earlier works and is rather self-consciously 'poetic'.

Aug 08, 2015

Skillfully written and obviously well researched, this book centres around the WW2 destruction of the English industrial city of Coventry including its famous cathedral. Given the subject matter, I found it to be a somewhat depressing little story about the grim effects of war upon civilian populations and in particular the women who are left to cope with an increasingly miserable situation of shortages, nightly bombing raids, loss of loved ones. Perhaps the most telling aspect is that so often their past lives seem to have been obliterated when homes and personal possessions are lost, the present is so horrific and they can see no clear hope of a better future.

WVMLBookClubTitles Jun 17, 2013

A perfect gem of a read. During a massive bombing of Coventry on November 14, 1940, much of the city and the famous cathedral were all but destroyed. Two women’s lives become entangled as the one searches through the dark and terrifying night for her son, only to find the other woman has spent much of the night trying to protect the young man from the fires and the bombings. The women discover that they had met years ago in Coventry and find solace in each other’s friendship.

Feb 18, 2013

The powerful images of bodies with scorched skin and limbs askew,homes with no walls but china teacups left intact, bring you alongside Harriet as she stumbles to a shelter during a devastating bombing raid by the German Luftwaffe. This novel a must read if you're interested in World War II history. A 2009 Evergreen Nominee that I've now read twice.

Jul 29, 2012

A short, spare novel about the night Coventry was bombed and destroyed. Good.

Dec 07, 2011

Love this author. i felt like i was there in the cold, in the past. Wonderful.

Cdnbookworm Apr 18, 2011

The story is mostly set on November 14, 1940, in Coventry, England. This is the day that German bombers destroyed the city, including its cathedral. The main character, Harriet Marsh is firewatching on the roof of the cathedral when the evening begins. As the bombing begins, she connects with another firewatcher, young Jeremy Fisher. Harriet leads him back through the city to search for his mother Maeve.
We also see the story from Maeve's point of view, where she begins the evening in the pub and spends some time searching for Jeremy.
There is a bit at the beginning taking us back to World War I, when Harriet was newly married, and a bit at the end taking us forward to 1962, after Coventry Cathedral was rebuilt. The rest of the book occurs on November 14, and takes us through the night as the three characters make their way through the burning city and react to the destruction, heartbreak and devastation that they encounter. The interactions between the characters, particular between Jeremy and Harriet are what make the book, as they both bring their feelings and needs into the situation in which they find themselves.

Jan 31, 2011

Humphreys is v. skilled at developing a complex, intense story about defining events in people's lives, evoking sa trong sense of place/atmosphere in a focussed way. I found she got across the sudden impact of war/destruction on a largely unprotected civilian population well away from the normal 'frontline' in Europe, (the story recounts a german bombing raid on Coventry during WWII). Targetted because, although not directly fighting, the city was producing a vast number of the weapons /machinery used on the battlefields. Also, rinteresting in how people respond differently under such intense circumstances.


Add a Summary

Aug 07, 2011

- another short novel, this one captures the bombing of the city of Conventry during the Second World War through the eyes of two women, Maeve and Harriet. Very well written with sparse effective language. Liked the descriptions of the exodus into the countryside as people flee the bombing of the city. 8/10


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at LVCCLD

To Top